|Publication number||US7894586 B2|
|Application number||US 10/843,705|
|Publication date||Feb 22, 2011|
|Filing date||May 11, 2004|
|Priority date||Sep 8, 1997|
|Also published as||US6931116, US20040208305|
|Publication number||10843705, 843705, US 7894586 B2, US 7894586B2, US-B2-7894586, US7894586 B2, US7894586B2|
|Inventors||Karen A. Gross, Thomas Joseph Galvin, Rupika Chib|
|Original Assignee||Mci Communications Corporation|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (87), Non-Patent Citations (8), Referenced by (3), Classifications (15), Legal Events (3)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/924,928 filed on Sep. 8, 1997 , entitled “Multiple Routing Options in a Telecommunications Service Platform.”
The present invention relates generally to telecommunications systems, and more particularly, to providing multiple routing options in a telecommunications service platform.
In conventional telecommunications systems, a number of different telecommunications services are offered to subscribers. Each telecommunications service requires a unique telephone number. Examples of telecommunications services that require a unique telephone number are automatic routing services, voicemail services, facsimile services, paging services, cellular phone services and personal 800 numbers. One of the drawbacks of each service requiring a different telephone number is that managing and publishing multiple telephone numbers for a subscriber that uses multiple communications services can prove to be quite cumbersome. For example, a subscriber may have to provide a first telephone number for facsimile services, a second telephone number for voicemail services, and a third telephone number for cellular services. Thus, a subscriber must remember all of the unique telephone numbers and must make clear to people whom the subscriber gives the telephone numbers what services are associated with what telephone numbers. Oftentimes, a party confuses the mapping of telephone numbers to services and reaches the wrong service when dialing the telephone number that was given to the party. For instance, a caller may dial a number thinking that he will reach a person and instead the caller reaches a facsimile machine.
Another drawback of conventional systems is the lack of flexibility regarding the telecommunications services that are provided to subscribers. A subscriber may need to provide access to different services to different people at various times. For example, a subscriber may need to have phone calls directed to the subscriber's workplace during the work week but may need to have phone calls directed to his home or cellular phone on weekends. The subscriber may also wish to limit the people that may reach the subscriber by phone on the weekends. Still further, the subscriber may wish to provide other people with access to his voicemail. Unfortunately, with conventional systems such configurability of telecommunications services is not available.
The present invention addresses limitations of the prior art. In particular, the present invention may provide at least two routing options: Findme routing and scheduled routing. With Findme routing, callers are placed on hold while the phone numbers in the predefined sequence are tried until a live answer is reached. With scheduled routing, the call sequence that is attempted is based upon a predefined schedule. These routing options may be provided by a platform that also provides additional telecommunication services for a subscriber. The additional services may include voice mail services, facsimile messaging services, electronic messaging services, paging services and call screening services.
In accordance with a first aspect of the present invention, a method is practiced in a platform that provides services on behalf of a subscriber. In this method, a first routing option is provided for routing an incoming call to the subscriber. The first routing option places a phone call by the platform to successive phone numbers in a sequence of phone numbers for reaching the subscriber until a live answer to the call is realized. A second routing option is provided such that different phone numbers are used to reach the subscriber based on a schedule. An incoming call is received for the subscriber of the platform and one of the routing options is applied to reach the subscriber.
In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, a method is practiced in a system for providing telecommunications services to a subscriber. An incoming call to a destination party is received via a specified phone number. A schedule is reviewed to identify a selected phone number to a set of phone numbers that is to be initially tried to reach the subscriber. When no live answer is reached from calling the selected phone number, successive phone numbers in an alternative sequence for the selected phone number are tried until a live answer is reached.
In accordance with a further aspect of the present invention, a method is practiced in a telecommunications service platform such that routing profiles are provided on behalf of a subscriber of the platform. Each routing profile specifies at least one destination to route a call. A call is received from a caller to the subscriber and information is received from the caller that identifies the selected routing profile to use. The selected routing profile is then used to route the call.
In accordance with an additional aspect of the present invention, a telecommunications service platform includes a first router and a second router. The first router routes an incoming call to a subscriber to successive phone numbers in a sequence of phone numbers until a live answer to the call is realized. The second router routes an inbound call to the subscriber based on a schedule such that the schedule dictates what phone number is called to route the inbound call. The platform also includes a selector for selecting which of the first router and the second router is to be used in routing a received call.
A preferred embodiment of the present invention will be described in more detail below relative to the following figures.
The preferred embodiment of the present invention provides a platform for enabling multiple telecommunications services to be accessible through a single telephone number. Thus, for example, access to paging services, facsimile services, routing services, voicemail services, calling card services and personal 800 services, may be reached through a single telephone number. The subscriber has complete control over access to these services. In particular, the subscriber may specify what services are available to what people at what time. Hence, a first subset of the services to which the subscriber subscribes may be available to a first party at a first time and a second subset of services may be available to a second party at a second time. Moreover, a single party may have access to different subsets of the services depending on what time it is. The platform of the preferred embodiment of the present invention also provides the subscriber with the ability to place multiple calls from any location using the same telephone number and billing all the calls to a single account.
The preferred embodiment of the present invention provides a number of different routing options. When a caller calls the platform to reach the subscriber, one or more of the routing options may be employed. In a first routing option a sequence of phone numbers are called in a prescribed order until a live answer to the call is realized. For example, the call may be routed first to a subscriber's office, then to a subscriber's home, and lastly to a subscriber's cellular phone. In a second routing option, the routing is dictated by a schedule such that the time and/or date may dictate where the call is routed. The two routing options may be used in conjunction. Moreover, different routing profiles may be used within each routing option. A caller may be requested to provide identifying information and this identifying information is utilized to determine which routing profile to apply.
In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the subscriber is assigned a single telephone number, such as a toll free 800 number or 888 number. This single telephone number may be used by other parties (“guests”) to reach the subscriber at any destination telephone number programmed by the subscriber. In addition, the single phone number may be used to send a fax to the subscriber, to leave a voicemail message for the subscriber, or to page the subscriber. Also, as mentioned above, different callers may reach different services. As an example, calls from certain callers may automatically cause a page to be issued or automatically placed into voicemail.
The subscriber may access his account by calling the single telephone number that is assigned to the subscriber. Multiple outbound calls to domestic destinations or international destinations will be billed to a single account. As result, a subscriber need not enter a calling card number multiple times when placing multiple calls. A subscriber may also access their account to make updates to a service profile that is maintained. As an example, the subscriber may change the terminating telephone numbers that are used to reach the subscriber. Similarly, a subscriber may change which callers are sent to voicemail and which callers automatically cause a page to be sent.
In one embodiment of the present invention, a subscriber is assigned multiple personal identification numbers (PINs). Each PIN is a short sequence of numeric characters or DTMF digits. Each PIN is associated with a different service configuration. One of the PINs is assigned solely for use by the subscriber, and when the subscriber calls his assigned telephone number and enters his PIN, the platform knows that it is the subscriber who is calling and offers subscriber only services. The other PINs may be assigned to different service profiles. These PINs may be distributed to appropriate parties to specify what services would be available to those parties. For example, a first PIN may be given to family members of a subscriber, whereas a second PIN may be given to business associates of the subscriber. As a result, family members will have access to a first set of services and business associates will have access to a second set of services.
II. Platform Architecture
The platform 10 also includes an application processor (AP) 46 that is associated with the ACD 18. The AP may be a dedicated computer system that provides intelligent application processing for the ACD 18. Certain functionality that may be performed by the ACD 18 is off-loaded to the AP 46 to enable the ACD to focus on performing the switching and queuing functionality. The AP 46 is linked to the ACD 18 via an ISDN implementation of a switch/computer application interface (SCAI) link 30.
The platform 10 includes an automated response unit (ARU) 20 that provides voice response and menu routing functions to a caller. The ARU 20 facilitates caller input via selection of dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) digits, such as by pressing keys on a telephone keypad. The ARU 20 may provide various automated menus which the caller may navigate to reach a desired service. The ARU 20 includes a network audio server 22, which is a server computer that has a voice telephony interface to the ACD 18. The NAS 22 is linked to the ACD via multiple voice trunks 23 and, in general, provides an audio interface to a caller. The ARU 20 also includes an automated call processor (ACP) 24. The ACP 20 provides intelligent call processing functions for the ARU 20. The ARU 20 is responsible for handling all initial inbound calls for the platform 10. The NAS 22 and ACP 24 may be linked, for example, by an Ethernet® local area network (LAN) 26 (Ethernet is a trademark of Xerox Corporation). The ACP 24 operates by executing scripts that take callers through a series of menus, accept caller input, make decisions based upon caller input, and perform actions such as the transfer of a call to another destination to provide appropriate services. The ACP 24 prompts the AP 46 or NAS 22 to play prompts to callers and to gather DTMF digit input, to play various recorded messages. The ACP 24 may be implemented on a high-grade mid-range computer, such as the IBM RS/6000 from International Business Machines Corporation, or a Alpha-based computer from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).
As will be described in more detail below, the scripts executed by the ACP 24 determine which communications services to provide to a caller, and then the ACP 24 provides those services by commanding the NAS 22 to transfer the call to the appropriate service provider. The scripts executed by the ACP 24 are customized to a subscriber by using a subscriber profile as input data. The subscriber profile is stored for use by the platform, as will also be described in more detail below. The subscriber profile specifies which services are available to a subscriber and guests and which destination numbers are to be used.
The platform 10 may include one or more operator consoles 28. These consoles 28 are specialized workstations that are operated by human operators. The operator consoles 28 may perform much of the same functionality as is performed by the ARU 20. In particular, the human operator at each operator console 28 may perform the appropriate scripts, prompting and transferring needed for call processing.
The platform 10 may have a voicemail/faxmail platform (VFP) 32. This platform collects, stores, and manages both voicemail messages and facsimile messages. It collects voicemail and facsimile messages over Feature Group D (FGD) trunks 33 from a telephone switching network 14. Calls that require voicemail or facsimile services are transferred to the VFP 32 from the ARU 20, as will be described in more detail below. A transfer occurs with the assistance of the ACD 18 and the switching network 14. The VFP 32 is also connected to the Ethernet LAN 26.
The platform 10 may include multiple network implementation distribution servers (NIDS) 27, 34 and 36. Each of these NIDS may be implemented as a separate computer system. The NIDS may be redundant, and generally serve the role of storing database information, including subscriber profiles. The NIDS 27, 34 and 36 may all be connected to the Ethernet LAN 26 in the system configuration depicted in
The NIDS 27, 34 and 36 are also interconnected via a token ring local area network (LAN) 38. This LAN 38 is used for updates that are made to subscriber profiles and to keep the databases stored on the various NIDS consistent with a centralized profile database that is maintained by the mainframe profile management system 40 (which is on a dedicated mainframe or other suitable computer system). When a modification or update is made at one NIDS 27, 34 or 36, the affected NIDS sends a message to the mainframe profile management system 40, which makes the update to the centralized profile database and then ensures that each of the profile databases on the other NIDS are updated.
The platform 10 may also include a web server 42 that is connected to the token ring LAN 38 to provide a web site that a subscriber may access over the Internet 44. The web page at the web server 42 enables a subscriber to update the subscriber profile for the subscriber over the Internet. These updates may be forwarded to the mainframe profile management system 40, which in turn may update the information stored at the NIDS 27, 34 and 36. Alternatively, an NIDS may be resident with the web server such that the NIDS associated with the web server updates the profile information and passes the update on to the mainframe profile management system 40. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the web server 42 may also be part of an intranet rather than the Internet. Still further, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the web server 42 may more generally be a program that provides a user interface to subscribers so that the subscribers may update service profile information via computer. Hence, a program may be a program resident on a server that is part of a distributed system such as a LAN or wide area network (WAN).
The web server 42 is described in more detail in co-pending application entitled, “System for Internet-Based Profile Management in a Single Number Communications Server,” which was filed on even date herewith and is assigned to a common assignee with the present application and which is explicitly incorporated by reference herein.
The call originator 12 depicted in
Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the system configuration shown in
The call is routed from the ACD 18 to the NAS 22 (step 66 in
The database stored on the NIDS 27, 34 and 36, and the mainframe profile management system 40 may hold multiple subscriber profiles.
The subscriber profile 82 may also hold status information 88 regarding the respective services. The profile may also hold service-specific information 90. The information 90 may include information such as forwarding phone numbers to be used in routing phone calls, telephone numbers to be used in paging, the type of facsimile messaging to facilitate, and so forth.
Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the depiction of the database in
The profile retrieved from the database will designate whether the caller is a guest or a subscriber. The profile will also specify the services that are available to the guest or subscriber. The discussion below will focus initially on instances where a guest calls into the platform 10 and then later on instances where a subscriber calls into the platform 10.
As was discussed above, the ACP 24 executes a script depending upon the retrieved subscriber profile. If the phone call is from a computer of facsimile machine, the call is extended to the VFP 32. Otherwise, the ACP 24 executes a script that causes a menu of options to be output to the user in the form of recorded audio messages. In particular, the ACP 24 commands the NAS 22 to play certain audio messages. The initial guest menu may, for example, take the form of an audio recording that asks the caller “How may I help you reach your party?” and then itemizes a number of options. The options that are itemized depends upon the services that are available based upon a retrieved profile for the subscriber. These options may include:
The caller responds to the guest menu by depressing a key on a touch-tone keypad on the caller's telephone set. Thus, if the caller wishes to leave a voicemail, the caller presses the “2” key. The ACP 24 responds to the user input to transfer the call to the appropriate destination for enabling the caller to be serviced. If the caller chooses to leave a voicemail or send a fax, the call is transferred to the VFP 32. The other services are handled by the ACP 24.
Suppose that the caller chooses the option of being connected to the subscriber (e.g., the first option in the guest menu set forth above).
With Findme routing, a subscriber may specify multiple terminating telephone numbers that the platform 10 can call to reach the subscriber. For example, the subscriber may specify up to three phone numbers that are attempted in sequence. A subscriber might specify his office number first, his cellular number second and his home number third. When such Findme routing is applied, the ARU 20 places the caller on hold while it places calls to these numbers in sequence.
The ARU 20 includes a digital signal processor (DSP) to detect the inflection of a voice answering the call to distinguish a live person answering the call from an answering machine answering the call. If all of the phone numbers are exhausted, the ARU may stop Findme routing and apply alternate routing treatment, such as routing the call to the subscriber's voicemail, issuing a page to the subscriber, presenting a closing message recorded by the subscriber, or presenting the caller with an option of any combination of the above described choices. If, however, a live answer is realized (see step 100), the ARU connects the caller to complete the call (step 102 in
The routing that is employed for a given call may be affected by the PIN entered by a caller. In particular, the platform 10 may associate PINs with routing profiles such that when a caller enters a given PIN, the call is routed according to the profile associated with the PIN.
A guest caller may also choose to page a subscriber (step 114 in
Another service that is available to a guest caller is voicemail for a subscriber's voicemail box.
The AP 46 then sends commands to the ACD 18 to originate a call to the VFP 32 (step 136 in
Mode Indicator Transfer Type 1 Guest caller leaving voicemail 2 Guest caller leaving fax with voice annotation 3 Guest caller leaving fax without voice annotation 4 Subscriber voicemail/faxmail retrieval 5 Subscriber list maintenance 6 Subscriber recording mailbox name
In this case, mode indicator is a value of 1 indicating that guest caller is leaving a voicemail message (step 142 in
The VFP 32 uses the call context information to retrieve the subscriber's account and confirm acceptance of the call (step 144 in
The VFP 32 receives the call and plays a greeting for caller, which may either be a standard system greeting or a custom greeting prerecorded by the subscriber (step 150 in
After the guest caller has left a voicemail message, the VFP 32 prompts the guest caller with a number of options (step 156 in
A guest caller may also transmit a facsimile message to a subscriber.
The guest may also initiate the fax process from the guest menu. In such an instance the guest caller chooses the option to send a facsimile message from the guest menu (step 190 in
F. Subscriber Services
When a subscriber calls into the platform 10, the user is scripted with the guest menu, enters his passcode and is presented with a different menu than guest callers. The subscriber main menu presents the subscriber with the following options:
This assumes that the subscriber has subscribed to all of these services. In cases where a subscriber subscribes to less than all of these services, fewer options may be presented.
When the subscriber chooses option 1 to change routing, the subscriber is prompted with a second menu that enables the subscriber to either change the Findme routing, the override routing, or alternate routing. The Findme routing has been described above. With respect to Findme routing, the user may change the three number telephone sequence and may change the schedules that are associated with the routing. Override routing refers to an instance when the subscriber desires to override the guest menu options for guest callers and prescribe a single treatment for callers. This may include sending calls to voicemail, prompting a page to the subscriber, utilizing Findme routing, and so forth. When the user selects the option for override routing, the user is able to configure what overrides are to be utilized. These overrides are part of the configurability of the service options discussed above.
The subscriber may choose to retrieve voicemail messages or fax messages.
The VFP 32 receives the call from the ACD 18 and answers the call (step 118 in
Suppose that the subscriber chooses to retrieve a voicemail message. In such a case, the VFP 32 plays back voicemail messages to the subscriber, if there are any, per subscriber request (step 242 in
In conjunction with the ACD's routing of the call to the NAS 22, the AP 46 sends a message to the ACP 24 that contains call context information (step 260 in
The ACD 18 releases to the switch network 14 the subscriber's call from the ARU and the call to the ANI (step 280 in
The subscriber may also choose to retrieve a facsimile message (see step 240 in
If, on the other hand, the call is answered (see step 310 in
When the subscriber wishes to send a voice message, the call is transferred to the VFP in response to the selection of a send/retrieve messages option and the VFP prompts the subscriber to enable the recording and sending of a voice message. In particular, as shown in
The VFP 32 also enables the subscriber to send a fax message. In such a case, the subscriber specifies the recipients that are intended to receive the fax message (step 212 in
3. Outbound Calls
A subscriber may also place a call via the platform 10. A subscriber may place a call by selecting a speed-dial number, an international number, a domestic number or via operator assistance. All of these calls may be billed to the single account associated with the subscriber phone number. These calls may also be billed to a credit card or a calling card account as specified by the subscriber.
A subscriber may call into their own account on the platform 10 to place one or more outbound calls. This may include domestic calls and international calls. The calls may be billed to the subscriber's account, a credit card or a calling card.
Initially, a subscriber chooses to place an outbound call. As was discussed above, this is one of the subscriber menu options that is available to a subscriber via the platform 10 (step 220 in
The platform 10 then proceeds to take steps to realize the outbound call. The ARU 20 sends a message to the AP 46 specifying that a subscriber wishes to place an outbound call (step 328 in
The ACD 18 releases the NAS 22 and sends a release message to the bridging switch (step 334 in
The outbound calling options are described in more detail in co-pending application entitled, “Outbound Calling Services in a Telecommunications Service Platform,” which was filed on even data herewith and is assigned to a common assignee and which is explicitly incorporated by reference herein.
A subscriber may also access certain administrative functions by calling the platform, using the subscriber telephone number. The subscriber chooses the administration option from the subscriber menu (see step 342 in
The administrative functions may also be used to activate and deactivate all guest menu options by choosing the activate/deactivate features option (step 350 in
The subscriber may choose the option to activate/deactivate paging (step 364 in
The subscriber may choose the option of activating/deactivating voicemail messaging (see steps 376 and 378 in
The subscriber also has the option of changing routing options (step 351 in
While the present invention has been described with reference to a preferred embodiment thereof, those skilled in the art will appreciate that various changes in form and detail may be made without departing from the intended scope of the present invention as defined in the appended claims.
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|U.S. Classification||379/207.13, 379/207.11, 379/196, 379/88.19, 379/201.02, 379/207.02|
|International Classification||H04M3/54, H04M3/42, H04M3/46|
|Cooperative Classification||H04M3/42, H04M3/46, H04M3/54, H04M2203/2072|
|European Classification||H04M3/46, H04M3/54|
|Apr 22, 2014||AS||Assignment|
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Effective date: 20140409
Owner name: VERIZON PATENT AND LICENSING INC., NEW JERSEY
|Jul 23, 2014||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|Jul 24, 2014||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: VERIZON PATENT AND LICENSING INC., NEW JERSEY
Free format text: CORRECTIVE ASSIGNMENT TO REMOVE THE PATENT NUMBER 5,835,907 PREVIOUSLY RECORDED ON REEL 032725 FRAME 0001. ASSIGNOR(S) HEREBY CONFIRMS THE ASSIGNMENT;ASSIGNOR:MCI COMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION;REEL/FRAME:033408/0235
Effective date: 20140409